Christopher "Kit" Spier was born in Seattle on March 17, 1926, the youngest of two sons born to Leslie Spier and Erna Gunther, both prominent anthropologists. His parents separated when he was about 4, and he lived with his mother, the former head of the University of Washington’s anthropology department and the director of what is now the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at UW.
As a boy, Mr. Spier spent summers living with his mother on the Makah reservation in Neah Bay, and for a time he ferried weekly to a boarding school in Victoria, B.C. that was run by the sister of one of Canada’s most famous women painters.
A graduate of Roosevelt High, Mr. Spier was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II, and served two years as a rifleman with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy from 1944 to 1946. It was a searing experience, he would later write, but one he said he would repeat because it taught him to “take a lot of punishment and still get up and fight.”
After the war, Mr. Spier earned a drama degree from UW, and he met and married another drama-school graduate, Patricia Ryan. He managed a theater in Tacoma, then joined KING-TV in 1953, when television was done live and the rules were made up on the fly by people in their 20s who were running things, said Patricia, who worked there as on-camera talent. After a dozen years in the business, it became evident that if he ever wanted to make money, Kit would“. . . have to own a TV station rather than work in one.”